I read a report regarding New Year resolutions, the thrust of which was that setting the bar too high will lead us to not keeping our resolutions. In other words, opting for smaller, more manageable changes might be a better long-term strategy. I agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly. And I also believe that even seemingly relatively minor adjustments to lifestyle can reap enormous dividends in terms of their impact on things like energy and vitality.
Here are, in no particular order, ten suggestions for bite-sized New Year resolutions. My suggestions is to pick just one, two, or maybe three of these and allow a month or two for you to feel the benefit of your new behavior and settle in to your new habit(s). You can always add further healthy behaviors later.
1. Drink water. Maintaining hydration has a profound influence on vitality and energy, including mental energy. I suggest drinking enough water to keep your urine pale yellow throughout the course of the day. The usually critical step that needs to be taken to make this possible is to keep water by you, for example, keeping a bottle and glass on your desk and carry a water bottle with you during the day.
2. Exercise. I’d advise against promising yourself you’re going to spend an hour in the gym four times a week. If you really are quite sedentary now, how about committing to a ten minute walk each day. Earlier this year, I developed with the help of some colleagues a 12-minute exercise routine as part of a forthcoming book. I’ve managed with relatively little effort to perform this every day for the last six months. Previous attempts at more ambitious exercise have generally been less successful.
3. Eat mindfully. In our fast-paced world, there can be a tendency to eat while distracted and shovel in more food than we need.
4. Chew thoroughly. Part of mindful eating can be thorough chewing, which will enhance the body’s ability to digest food efficiently, and will usually help with any symptoms of indigestion or reflux.
5. Make time. Some new habits, for example, exercise, can take time, which many of us believe we don’t have enough of.
6. Sleep. Sleep has the ability to optimize mental and physical energy, and getting an optimal amount of sleep, about 8 hours a night on average, is linked to reduced risk of chronic diseases and improved longevity. One simple strategy that can help ensure you get enough sleep is to go to bed earlier. Getting into bed at 10 p.m. or 10:30 p.m. is not a waste of time, but a potentially useful investment in terms of your short- and long-term health.
7. Eat a primal diet Common sense and a lot of science dictate that the best diet for us is one based on foods we’ve been eating the longest throughout history. If you know nothing else about diet, this nutritional gem will help make healthy food choices quickly and confidently.
8. Snack healthily. Snacking tends to have a bad reputation, and at least some of this is based on the fact that many snack foods, for example, biscuits, confectionery, and chips, are far from healthy. However, going for too long between meals, especially between lunch and dinner, can cause extreme hunger, which can lead to the overconsumption of unhealthy food and drink. Quelling appetite with something healthy, such as a handful or two of nuts, can do wonders to help us maintain our healthy eating habits will minimal effort.
9. Get more sunlight. Sunlight and the vitamin D this can make in the skin have a myriad of benefits for body and brain. While burning is to be avoided, I advise getting as much sunlight exposure as possible.
10. Be more appreciative. This New Year’s resolution was inspired by recently witnessing a random act of kindness. It occurs to me that many of us live in societies that are hugely aspirational, and as a result, we can easily find ourselves chasing an ever-growing list of goals, many of which can be material in nature. Many of us could do with spending more time focusing not on what we don’t have, but on what we do have. In addition to whatever material things we may want to give thanks for, we might also feel appreciation for our blessings, including people, pets, our health, beautiful landscapes, or sunsets.
Dr. John Briffa is a London-based physician and author with an interest in nutrition and natural medicine. His Web site is Drbriffa.com